Cubs Trade Grades: Did They Acquire Enough Young Talent to Rebuild?

George DarkowCorrespondent IJuly 31, 2011

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 29: Right fielder Kosuke Fukudome #1 of the Cleveland Indians catches a line drive off Melky Cabrera #53 (not shown) of the Kansas City Royals during the seventh inning at Progressive Field on July 29, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Before we begin grading the Cubs' performance in the final days of Major League Baseball's trading season, it seems appropriate to state that the minimal activity the Cubs engaged in is a bit puzzling.  

For starters, the current cast of Chicago Cubs isn't exactly the cliched "year or two away" from being contenders.  If anything, the most appropriate way to describe the current roster is more like a year or two removed—from contention, their prime, even respectability.

Additionally, it may be noble for players to profess loyalties to their employer, but it's another thing to have general managers take such beliefs to the extreme Cubs general manager Jim Hendry seemingly has.  

Among all the Cubs' trading chips, not a single one stated they'd like anything more than remaining a Chicago Cub, and somewhat surprisingly, they have all managed to remain.

Which leads to the Fukudome trade.

Now that the trading frenzy has ended with the Cubs managing to move only Kosuke Fukudome, the only question that arises is why the Cubs moved anyone, let alone Fukudome  

Most Cubs fans would readily admit that they had hoped these final days before the MLB trading deadline would put an end to the miserable array of players that have underperformed and driven the franchise closer toward the cellar of the National League Central Division than towards a divisional championship over the past three seasons.  

To trade just one of the failed cast members seems ludicrous.

While Fukudome joined the Cubs with larger-than-life expectations from Cubs fans, his performance was nothing short of average.  Touted as a hybrid of great Japanese ball players, Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, Cubs fans quickly found that Fukudome's talents were more of a sampling than a combination of those two players.  

Fukudome was never the fleet-footed, contact-hitter with a rifle-like arm, and he never hit for the type of power that earned him a fitting nickname like "Godzilla."

It's only fitting for Cubs fans that Fukudome's departure would impact the organization just a mere fraction of how much his arrival had.  For trading the $30 million Kosuke Fukudome to the Cleveland Indians, the Cubs received minor-leaguers Carlton Smith and Abner Abreu.   

Smith, a right-handed pitcher, has been in the Indians' minor league system for six years.  Smith has only managed to reach the Triple-A level the past two seasons, where he has a career ERA of 5.40.  The only respectable season Smith has had to this point in his career with in 2009, when he was 6-2 with a 2.72 ERA.  

In short, Smith is nothing more in this trade than just another arm.

As for the other addition from Cleveland, Abreu is a young outfielder who has been involved with the Cleveland Indians since the age of 17.  Today, Abreu is 21 and has shown minimal progress over four seasons of organized baseball.  

A career .266 hitter with what scouts believe may be enormous potential, Abreu has been often compared to current Cubs left-fielder Alfonso Soriano—also noted as Abreu's favorite player.

There's no denying that Abreu was the centerpiece of the deal for the Cubs, but at such a young age, it seems unlikely that Abreu will have much to offer the Major League club for quite some time.  

The trade of both Smith and Abreu for Fukudome could possibly wind-up being a winner for the Cubs.  While Fukudome made a decent Cubs career out of being a selective hitter with an above-average glove, the Cubs simply thought they were getting more.  With Abreu, there is no hype. There are no preconceived notion of what he will or will not amount to.  

For the Cubs, that's probably not such a bad thing.  Most of the fans' frustration has come from a belief that the Cubs have been far more talented than they have shown.  By moving Fukudome, the Cubs have lost a piece to the puzzle that simply never fit together quite the way it was expected.  

Unfortunately, the inability for the Cubs to move any other members of their current, under-performing squad is puzzling at best.  

While the departure of Fukudome brings the Cubs closer to a full-on rebuilding effort, there simply remains too many members of a failed regime.  Until the Cubs fully commit to rebuilding—regardless of their roster's desire to remain in Chicago—the Cubs may find themselves no closer a winning season than they currently are.